Shawn Barber set two goals for himself this season: clear six metres and win an Olympic medal.
The Canadian pole vaulter has knocked off one goal already.
The 21-year-old reigning world champion cleared 6.00 metres to win the Pole Vault Summit on Friday night in Reno, Nevada, shattering his previous Canadian indoor record of 5.92.
“Those are the two things that I’m really aiming for, and to cross one out so early in the year is a great feeling,” Barber said in a phone interview. “I was looking at doing six metres this year, that was my big goal, and to get that out of the way so early, it really gives me hope going into the outdoor season and going into Rio, because I feel like I have a much better chance of doing something really special outdoors.”
Barber’s Canadian outdoor record is 5.93, set at the London Grand Prix last July.
Like Canadian sprint star Andre De Grasse, Barber opted to turn pro this season and forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility with the University of Akron. He said Friday night’s result was validation he made the right decision.
“Absolutely, I was worried that I wouldn’t perform this year,” he said. “Everybody has that fear of going pro, and then not performing, and so this kind of solidified my decision to go pro.”
Barber is the youngest jumper to ever clear 6.00 indoors.
Barber, who grew up in the U.S. but has dual citizenship and lists Toronto as his hometown, attempted six metres at several meets last season. He missed all three attempts at that height at the world championships in Beijing, but his height of 5.90 was good enough for gold.
“Pretty much any times I jumped above 5.85, I gave (6.00) a good effort,” he said. “The idea is to be consistent above a certain mark, so you give yourself more chances at those high marks.”
Friday night, he cleared every height on his first attempt until he reached 5.94. He needed three attempts to clear 5.94, then moved the bar to 6.00, which he cleared on his first try. He was already celebrating before he landed in the pit.
“I’m sure there’s photos, they might not be flattering, but I’m sure there’s photos,” Barber said laughing. “As soon as I was over I knew that it was going to stay.”
Reigning Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie of France tweeted: “Welcome to 6m club @vaultbarber See you in Rouen.”
Barber will fly to Europe on Wednesday for a series of meets, and will face Lavillenie, who won bronze at the world championships behind Barber, in Rouen, France, next Saturday.
Barber will showcase his sport in Canada next June when he competes in a street event — similar to the event he won last summer inside Zurich’s main train station — at Toronto’s Yonge and Dundas Square.
“I participate in events like this in Europe, but I’m really excited to put on a show for Toronto before heading to Rio,” Barber said. “Going into Rio, I really think we can do something special, and draw a big crowd.”